NOTE: Sorry, people, I’m caught flat-footed this week as I have not been a good planner of my time this summer. I do plan to return to the Senses in Writing posts next time, Lord willing.
On that note, I pulled up a friend, Karin Beery’s, post on Making the Time to Write.
You CAN Find the Time to Write by Karin Beery
Original Date: Sat Sep 19, 2009 7:20 am ((PDT))
Freelance writer/editor/coach, part-time accounting assistant, part-time homemaker.
I started writing to write a novel. I continue writing because I love this job. I’ve written for many local and national periodicals, have edited 200-wordpress releases and edited 65,000-word novels. Whether I’m writing my own stories or helping others develop theirs, I put all of my passion and talent into each job.
NOTE: Since this original post, Karin’s home life has changed :)
Making the Time to Write
I can plan a wedding in three weeks. I can coordinate a sales retreat for 200 representatives. I can even figure out a work schedule for thirty employees working 12 hour shifts, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’ve done it all. So why do I struggle to find time to work on my manuscript?
After months of frustration and feeling guilty for not meeting my writing goals I’m finally settling into a pattern that works for me. If you’re like me (not the over-the-top-planner, the
struggling-to-find-time-writer), I think I can help.
There were two areas in my life that I had to look at:
When I Work and
How I Work.
Once I could answer those questions I started to see progress. Here’s how:
When I Work: I don’t have a schedule. I wish I did. I thrive in a structured environment. Public schools worked for me because I like knowing where I’m going, when, and for how long. When I worked in hospitality I worked on random days and at random hours, but I knew how long my shift was and what I had to complete each day. I graduated top of my class and both of my former employers still ask me if I’d consider coming back. I was that good.
Despite all of that, I’m a horrible freelance writer. It’s not because I can’t write, but because I’m on my own. I don’t have anyone telling me what to do. My newspaper deadline is “Tuesday night”. Okay, but when? 5 pm? 11:59 pm? I need specifics.
As if that lack of structure wasn’t enough, I’m also a substitute teacher. I don’t work every day, and when I do work it might be a half or full day. I have to be at the high school by 7:30 am and the elementary schools by 8:30 am. And that’s only one school district. The others vary, so my schedule does, too.
When I started going to conferences and reading books on writing almost everyone said to write a certain number of words per day. They also said to pick a time to write. Well, I trust these multi-published best-selling authors, so I followed their advice. I failed.
It’s easy to have daily goals and a scheduled time when you know where you’ll be and for how long each day, but I don’t have that luxury. I might get a sub call at 6 am. Sometimes I even get a cancellation. Either way, I have to be flexible.
When I noticed my lack of schedule I also noticed the futility in scheduling writing times and daily goals. If I can’t guaranteed that I’ll be in my office every morning at seven to write for two hours, then how can I force a daily goal upon myself? I can’t.
What I can do, however, is set weekly goals. I don’t know what each day will bring, but I know that I don’t let myself sub more than three days per week. And I also do my laundry and clean the house once a week. And since I’ve changed my writing goals from 500 words per day to 2500 per week, I’ve not only been meeting my goals, but exceeding them. That was my first revelation…when I work. Then I looked at my process.
How I Work: I am a natural procrastinator. I always have been, and I probably always will be. I don’t mean to do it. It just happens.
Take my part-time job at the local weekly paper and my Tuesday night deadline. I cover the monthly Planning Commission (PC) meetings on the first Wednesday of each month. I have an entire week to write the article, but I never start it until Monday. The only reason I write it on Monday is so one of the PC members can review it for me before I submit it to my editor (I tend to misspell last names). I’ve been attending the PC meetings all year. I never write the article before Monday.
This is true for most areas of my life. I work well under pressure, and when there isn’t any I put it on myself by waiting until the last minute. I hope to change, but I won’t hold my breath.
Because I know that I procrastinate I know that I won’t write my articles until the beginning of each week. Back when I was trying to meet daily writing goals, this caused a problem. I couldn’t sub all day plus write/edit/re-write/submit an article and write another 500 words on my manuscript all in one day if I also wanted to exercise, eat, sleep, and see my husband. The guilt and frustration of not meeting my daily writing goals pressed in on me…until I changed.
When I switched to weekly writing goals I removed all of that pressure because it gave me Monday and Tuesday to write for the paper and the rest of the week to work on my novel. That plan has continued to work for me! Since I know I won’t start my articles until at least Sunday
night (if I’m motivated), then I don’t worry about writing the articles over the weekend. That gives me the freedom to work on my manuscript over the weekend without the deadline-guilt. I went from being a stressed-out, goal-failing writer who dreaded her assignments and manuscript to a woman who makes deadlines and enjoys her job.
For some of you, writing everyday works with your schedule. But for some of us, it doesn’t. I would LOVE to be able to do it, but if I truly want to write my novel (and I do…really, really, I do) then I have to find a way that works for me.
How about you? Do you struggle to make it work? The take a good look at yourself – who you are, what you do, and how you do it best. Fit your writing into that. Don’t try to remold yourself around the writing. It should become a part of you and your life – not the center of it. You have to find what it is that compliments what you’re already working with. That’s the point that I think I was missing. Because it’s not about when you write or for how long – the point is that you write.